All is Not as it Seems: HR Lessons from Christmas in Connecticut

One of the movies I most look forward to watching each year is Christmas in Connecticut starring Barbara Stanwyck. It’s more romantic comedy than HR How To, but there are a few potential lessons.


barbara stanwyck

A Quick(ish) Summary

Elizabeth Lane writes a popular column for a women’s magazine describing her idyllic life as a homemaker on a picturesque farm with her husband and young son. Unlike the perfect homemaker image she portrays, in real life she is single, lives in a small apartment in NYC, and can’t cook. The recipes she writes about come from a friend who owns a restaurant and her descriptions of the farm are based on one owned by John, a successful architect whom she has repeatedly turned down for marriage. When her publisher invites himself and a war hero to her farm for Christmas, she knows he will learn the truth and she’ll lose her job. Desperate, she agrees to marry John and host Christmas at the farm. But, before they can be married by a local Judge, the guests arrive and chaos ensues as they try to hold the farce together.



  1. There’s a reason for checking references and verifying credentials. This is too obvious not to mention. It’s never revealed how she got the job but, because of her popularity, it would have cost the magazine considerable embarrassment and credibility if anyone discovered the truth.


  1. Job requirements are a filter, not a guarantee. Deception aside, she was very successful because her skill as a writer and imaginative detail overshadowed her inexperience as a homemaker. I don’t condone deception, but it does raise an important issue.


Job requirements are an easy way to identify and separate out the people most likely to be successful at a job. But in many cases, the “requirements” are just a best guess or even arbitrary and don’t truly have much to do with job performance (I’ll spare you my rants about college degrees or personality profiles). Too often, meeting all the requirements does not guarantee a person will be successful in the job while rejecting many who might be high performers.


Do any of your job requirements unnecessarily screen out people who might otherwise be fantastic? It’s easy to see if those hired are successful, but hard to tell which of those eliminated might otherwise have been successful. So, how do you know?


  1. The best ideas are those useful to you. She had zero expertise with anything she wrote about yet her readers revered her as the ideal they aspired to be. She didn’t have the credentials but she made the information useful to her readers.


Today, there is a lot of HR content pumped into the interwebz. Some is good, some sounds good, and some is just noise. Too much is positioned as cutting edge, aspirational HR Truth-with-a-capital-T when there is no one-size-fits-all. Different people and different situations are, well, different, and what works for one person in one situation might be an ugly fail in another. We all need to be discerning in deciding if something is true, useful, and could work in our particular situation. Caveat emptor.



  1. Connection with customers is crucial. When one column mentioned she was looking for a specific type of rocking chair, 40 readers purchased and shipped chairs to her as a gift. That’s connection.


What kind of connection does your HR team have with employees and managers? Are they raving fans, indifferent, or openly hostile? If HR was about to be outsourced, would employees fight to keep your team or cheer?



  1. Performance trumps. (Spoiler!) The publisher fired her for dishonesty and hired her back at double her pay when he realized he lost one of his most popular writers. It’s a reminder that, right or wrong, people who excel are often given a degree of latitude the average person never experiences.


Has your HR department created enough credibility and results to be given the benefit of the doubt and be listened to even when your advice or actions run counter to what leadership wants to do?



  1. Your choice. Watch the movie and let me know your biggest takeaways.



This post was written by Broc Edwards. Broc is a speaker and blogger on business, HR, and learning and development topics and has published the book “What Thinks You? A Fool’s Eye View of Human Resources”. Connect with him on Twitter @brocedwards or his website or blog fool (with a plan).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *






Thank you!

Your message has been sent. We'll contact you shortly

Contact Us

Follow us